Professional Sound - June 2022 - Page 20


David Gardner

By Manus Hopkins

Toronto ’ s new venue , History , is already making quite a splash . Since officially opening last November , the collaboration between Live Nation and Drake has already hosted a number of high-profile concerts and events with artists like Jack Harlow , CHVRCHES , and Alexisonfire gracing its stage . At the core of the venue ’ s successful launch is David Gardner , an accomplished front-of-house engineer now serving as History ’ s technical director . Gardner has come a long way in the sound industry since his humble beginnings as a teenager with a home recording hobby .

“ I bought a four-track Tascam cassette recorder when I was 15 to record demos in my bedroom ,” he says .“ When I was in grade 12 , the bass player in my band went to Trebas [ Institute , a post-secondary music and audio school ,] and took the audio engineering program and I would hear about the kind of stuff they were doing , and I just thought it all sounded really interesting .”
Gardner was born in Scarborough , ON , and grew up nearby in Pickering . He took up the guitar at age 13 , and was playing in bands by the time he was 16 .
Before landing at History , Gardner , throughout his long career , worked many jobs as an audio engineer and technician , sometimes holding down positions , and at other points freelancing and touring . Following in his bandmate ’ s footsteps , he ended up going to Trebas Institute himself for the audio engineering program .
“ I buried myself in the books and took as much studio and teacher time so I could to learn as much as possible ,” he tells Professional Sound .
After graduating from Trebas , Gardner saw a posting at Westbury National Show Systems ( WNSS ) for a job in their audio department , which consisted of prepping gear for rentals and shows . He was hired there and prepped equipment for their main audio lead , Wilf Wagner , under the mentorship of Tony Gravis . WNSS eventually began putting Gardner on shows as a technician . He did that until 2004 , when he left WNSS to work as the lead audio technician for Towers Productions . In 2006 , he left Towers to become a freelance engineer working for Bandworld , which eventually merged with Metalworks Production Group , WNSS , and Towers .
Gardner began touring in 2007 , and over the course of the last 15 years has been out on the road with many big names , including Philosopher Kings , Jacksoul , Die Mannequin , Matt Good , Sarah Harmer , Kathleen Edwards , Alexisonfire , City and Colour , and Arkells .
In September 2021 , Gardner was hired as the technical director at History , the 2,500-capacity venue in Toronto ’ s east end . It ’ s a sleek , state-of-the-art venue that Gardner is now responsible for keeping in top shape .
“ I book the technical crew for the venue and maintain the sound , lighting , and video equipment ,” he says .“ And liase with tours to make sure they get what ’ s needed to have the smoothest day and build our reputation as a world-class venue .”
Gardner ’ s main professional goal right now is lifting History to world-class status , something it seems he ’ s on the right track to doing . At some point , though , he says he ’ d like to get back behind a mixing console . That said , Gardner gives the sense that he ’ s happy
at History now , especially after a career that has seen him jump around so much . He ’ s particularly proud of his work with celebrated pop-rock band Arkells , with whom he worked as technical manager , production manager , and front-of-house engineer for a decade , playing an active role in their ascent to stardom . Gardner started working with Arkells in smaller clubs , growing to theatres , and eventually arenas , including their biggest headline show to date at Tim Hortons Field in the band ’ s hometown of Hamilton , ON .
“ Some other career highlights include being able to mix shows at world-renowned festivals such as Bonnaroo , Coachella , Glastonbury , Firefly , and Lollapalooza ,” Gardner adds . “ Being able to travel to places like Germany , Spain , France , Netherlands , Scandanavia , and the U . K . was a great bonus as a touring engineer .”
Aside from his impressive career highlights , Gardner says there ’ s always unexpected challenges that keep you on your toes in the professional audio industry .
“ I ’ ve done shows where the PA power has gone out ,” he says . “ I ’ ve had to do shows without the right gear because of lost baggage , and had to mix on consoles that weren ’ t advanced or running the correct firmware to be able to load my show file , and had only the change over time to figure it out at a festival .”
Outside of work , Gardner is kept busy by his two sons and spends a lot of time driving them to hockey arenas , and coaches their baseball league . He plays hockey himself , too , playing weekly from fall through spring . Even in his spare time , though , he always finds time for music .
“ I have guitars hanging around my house ,” he says . “ So , I try to pick one up weekly even to just mess around while watching the Jays , Leafs , or Manchester United .”
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor for Professional Sound .